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Back in 2011 my band Mighty Unlisted decided to record & produce our own album. We had the songs, the equipment, and nothing better to do.

Travis Wachendorf, the band’s singer & guitarist, had recently produced a three song EP to test out the process, hone our recording chops, and learn some valuable tricks of the trade. The band was ready and knew we could be finished by the end of summer. Summer flew by, as did the following fall, winter, spring, and another summer. Twenty months from when we started the album was finally done!

After the all the blood, sweat, tears, beers, and hard work we had invested in completing the album we knew we wanted to celebrate its arrival with a CD release party. With a large show at Club Red/Red Owl already booked and just around the corner we decided it would be the perfect venue to share it with our fans. One little issue remained: We hadn’t settle on a title, which also meant we had no artwork. Sure, we had tossed around cool sounding names whipped up on the tip of a beer soaked tongue at Four Peaks Brewery but none of them were necessarily the right names for this album. Our album. Our shiny, brand spanking’ new album. We needed a name, a title, something with teeth. Luckily for us we had kept a list.

The List

During the course of the recording we rented three different practice spaces. The first was costing us an arm & leg in rent and without a band to split the bill with it was time to move on. The second, practically next door to the first, was more affordable but was too unstable for comfort. The third, and current, space was just right. One of the few items schlepped from space to space was the markerboard (& our tattered Motley Crue poster). The board consisted of four things:

  1. The title of every song in our arsenal
  2. Tempos for the songs
  3. An accurate illustration of Travis Wachendorf
  4. Amazing album title ideas

Coffee Black, Packing for the Apocalypse, Tentacles, Mid-Life Crisis, and Black Sugar were just a few of the titles we had wordsmithed together. Of all the album names, Tentacles stood out the most to me. Each of the tracks have a unique feel, a different set of influences, while still being a cohesive album.

It just needed to have a squid, or octopus, or anything

It was decided that I would flesh out Tentacles & Brad would see what he could come up with for Packing for the Apocalypse (which I still think is a fantastic album name). Now it wasn’t just a race against time but it was also a race against Brad!

Sketch Time

At some point early in the recording process I threw some sketches together hoping the perfect cover would magically reveal itself. Without a title the artwork was pretty basic & generic. I had no idea how much it would actually influence the final cover.

Armed with the title I was ready to go. It practically drew itself, right? It just needed to have a squid, or octopus, or anything like that attacking or ripping apart something and boom, done. The more I looked around for ideas and inspiration the less confident I was that I could actually pull it off. I didn’t have a clear direction and the clock was ticking. With no ideas falling into place I pulled out the vanilla sketches I had done the previous year. I finally had my object for the tentacles to attack. It was actually pretty obvious. Each sketch had a central theme: a guitar.

With a concept fleshed out the sketch came together quickly: A mighty guitar defiantly standing up in the midst of thrashing tentacles!

Once the sketch was finished it was time to really get to work. At this stage I had a rough idea what images I needed to find to get the cover started:

  • Squid or octopus tentacles
  • A guitar, preferably a PRS
  • Ocean waves & splashing water
  • A dramatic sky

Jumping into Photoshop

My original plan was to photograph Travis’ PRS guitar, buy the largest octopus I could find at the Asian market, photograph that, and stitch it all together in Photoshop. Someday I still may create that cover. Time was against me so I opted for a simpler plan of attack! I found a stock photo of a PRS online & then made an amazing discovery: finger tentacles! I placed my order immediately.

While I impatiently waited for the tentacles to arrive I started searching for images of them online. I stumbled across several usable shots and started clipping them out to show the band what I had in mind. With a lukewarm reception, I decided to spice it up with some water, a dramatic sky, and some splashing. Now it was starting to come together.

Finishing Touches

With the foundation set, it was time to start dialing it in. Add some shadows here, more splashes there, swap out the cheerful sunrise for something a little more ominous. The only thing left was to write our name and the title on the artwork. I had recently stumbled on a wonderful font while watching the Hunger Games: Brandon Grotesque. It is similar to Gotham but not quit so abused in the design community. Finito.

Once the band mates approved the artwork nothing was left but to send the files off to Drew Swankie at R and R Images. In couple days we had the artwork back and we were ready for the sweet CD release.

It was a great journey and though it took over a year-and-a-half from start to finish, it was definitely a fun ride. It’s great being surrounded by so many talented people and getting the chance to give a little something back.